Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 940,961 words

This page describes “great miracle at shravasti” as written by Nagarjuna in his Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra (lit. “the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) in the 2nd century. This book, written in five volumes, represents an encyclopedia on Buddhism as well as a commentary on the Pancavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita.

Appendix 1 - The Great Miracle at Śrāvastī

Note: this appendix belongs to the story from Chapter XV part 9.2.

I [Lamotte] do not know where the following story was taken from, but the miracle of the multiplication of the Buddhas which the Mppś tells here and will tell again in two other places (k. 21, p. 220b, and k. 34, p. 312b) reproduces in several details the Great Miracle at Śrāvastī. The main sources are, in Pāli, the Sumaṅgalavilāsanī, I, p. 57; the Dhammapadaṭṭha, III, p. 213–216 (tr. Burlingame, Legends, III, p. 45–47) and the Jātaka, IV, p. 264–265; in Chinese, the Mulasarvāstivādin Vinaya, Kṣudrakavastu, T 1451, k. 26, p. 332a–b; parallel Sanskrit texts: Divyāvadāna, p. 161–162 (tr. Burnouf, Introduction, p. 162–164). The reproductions of the Great Miracle on the monuments at Bhārhut, Gandhāra, Benares, Ajaṇtā, Magadha and Konkan have been minutely described by Foucher, Beginnings of Buddhist Art, p. 147–185.

According to the Divya, the Great Miracle at Śrāvastī is broken down into two parts:

1) The twin miracle (yamakarātihārya).

The Bhagavat rose up into the air and appeared there in the four positions (īryāpatha), walking, sitting, standing and lying down. He attained the element of fire (tejodhātu) and his body emitted various glows. Flames escaped from the lower part of his body and from the upper part there came a rain of cold water (adhaḥ kāyaṃ prajvālayaty uparimāt kāyāc cītalā vāridhārāḥ standante). The Bhagavat himself knew that the miraculous power that he was thus manifesting is shared by all the śrāvakas (sarvaśravakasādhāraṇā ṛddhi). And we have already seen that several saints have accomplished this twin miracle.

2) The Great Miracle proper.

This miracle is higher than any human can perform (uttara manuṣyadharmaṛddhiprātihāryam).

The Dīvya, p. 162, describes it in the following way:

Nandopanandābhyāṃ nāgarājābhyāṃ Bhagavata upanāmitaṃ … anye praśnān pṛcchanty anye visarjayanti.

“The two nāga kings, Nanda and Upananda, created a golden thousand-petalled lotus the size of a chariot wheel with a diamond stem and came to present it to the Bhagavat who seated himself crosslegged on the corolla of this lotus, body upright in full awareness. Above this lotus, he created another and on this lotus, the Bhagavat was likewise seated. And similarly, in front, behind, all around him, appeared masses of blessed Buddhas, created by himself, rising up to the Akaniṣṭha heaven, forming a buddha-assembly created by the Blessed One. Some of these magical Buddhas were walking, some standing, some sitting, some lying down; some were attaining the fire element and producing miraculous flames, light rays and flashes of lightning; some were asking questions and some were replying.” (tr. Burnouf).

There is a striking similarity between the Great Miracle of Śrāvastī and that of the multiplication of Buddhas told here by the Mppś. However, there is a difference in detail that is worth mentioning. At Śrāvastī, the central lotus is created and brought by Nanda and Upananda and in most of the reproductions, the two nāga kings can be seen holding the stem of a lotus. In the account of the Mppś, there is no mention of the two nāga kings; the original lotus and the adventitious lotuses arise from the Buddha’s navel. Without a doubt, the Buddhist legend has been contaminated by the myth of the birth of Brahmā who appears seated cross-legged on a golden thousand-petalled lotus arising from Viṣṇu’s navel.